Africa as a market is highly important to many global businesses, not only today but for decades to come. For Bobcat, this is more true than ever as African markets continue to recover following the Covid-19 pandemic. Here Bobcat and some of the companies recently appointed as dealers give new insight into the current business environment in Africa, how it has recovered from the past two to three years and what the plans are for the future.
Nicolas Dumont, district sales manager – Africa for Bobcat, comments: “The compact industry is still rather marginal compared to heavy construction equipment in Africa. This is mostly because of the established mentality and the availability of cheap labour. But the potential growth is enormous as Africa will continue to develop.
“This is reflected in the past few years, when we have launched new products such as our backhoe loader, new mini-excavators and light compaction equipment and they are perfect add-ons for our existing customer base. We will soon be introducing in Africa a new line of ground maintenance equipment (zero turn mowers, compact tractors and small articulated loaders). This will open doors to a new customer base in landscaping and agriculture. There is already existing demand for such equipment in hotel resorts and golf courses but again, in a few decades, the landscaping industry will develop on the continent and by introducing these products in Africa now, we want to already position ourselves as a leader in this segment.”
“Growth is yet to come in many applications, including industry, agriculture, construction, landscaping and road maintenance. Bobcat believes it is strategically important to ensure the company is ready for growth. The first step is to increase Bobcat’s footprint with a network of strong dealers with increased presence across the continent and the second is to maximise our market share now to solidify our position as the market leader in the compact industry. This is why we are being so active in the dealer network – strengthening existing dealers in certain countries and appointing strong new dealers are the fundamentals to achieve our goals.”
Three of the newest dealers – Sodim TP in Gabon, Machinery Exchange in Zimbabwe and Albadri Power in Sudan – have expressed increased optimism in their respective markets.
Sodim TP in Gabon
Appointed at the end of 2020, Sodim TP, with headquarters in Libreville, is a major player in construction equipment, trucks and in the automotive sector in Gabon. Julien Canh, Directeur General at Sodim TP, comments: “Our main clients operate in the mining sector (manganese mines in the east of the country) and the forestry sector. After two years of recession, these two sectors are growing strongly in 2022 and Sodim TP is taking advantage of this upturn. Nevertheless, this growth remains fragile and uncertain due to the global geopolitical context, the war in Ukraine and the health context linked to the still very present Covid crisis, as we have seen recently with massive confinements in China.
“The most popular Bobcat product in Gabon is the market-leading S450 skid-steer loader. The S450 had been a product that was not yet well developed in Gabon and Bobcat has come to market with a very successful product that has already proved itself worldwide. The main reasons for its success in Gabon are first its dimensions allowing it to work where conventional loaders cannot reach. This also allows it to be easily transported from one site to another. Another feature is the wide range of attachments that make it a very versatile product especially for the economic actors of the construction industry who can use a single S450 machine for several applications.”
Canh continues: “Being part of the Bobcat dealer network completes the range of products offered by Sodim TP. Sodim TP, in its DNA, must be able to provide its customers with all types of machines they need to work. Thanks to Bobcat, this is now the case. For the future, we would like to increase the level of sales even for a small market in Gabon but we know that the potential exists – we will continue to make the brand better known through targeted marketing and sales actions.”
Machinery Exchange in Zimbabwe
As part of changes in the countries bordering South Africa, Bobcat confirmed the appointment of Harare-based Machinery Exchange as the new Bobcat authorised dealer for Zimbabwe, effective 1 January 2022.
Antony Dube, national sales & rental manager at Machinery Exchange, says: “The current business environment is still being adversely or indirectly affected by the overall effects of Covid on most global economies. Where shipping of units used to have a lead time of four weeks, delays of up to two months have been documented as China is still experiencing partial lockdowns, thus in turn, disrupting the overall shipping process globally.
“The most popular Bobcat products in our market are the B730 backhoe loader and the S450 skid-steer loader. The most important is the B730 backhoe loader, because the price is very competitive; it is a high quality and reliable product and it is multifunctional, serving most sectors in Zimbabwe, including agriculture, construction, earthmoving and mining. The B730 provides versatility for the user – a backhoe loader is capable of executing excavation and carrying of loads, whereas a frontend loader can only carry loads to and from job sites. Bobcat also offers premium products with excellent aftersales support.
“Being part of the Bobcat dealer network has enabled Machinery Exchange to take the extra step towards attaining market leader status within the above-mentioned product offerings, as it allows the company to tap into a wider choice of markets, thus bringing in more business opportunities.”
Albadri Power in Sudan
In response to the opening up of the market in Sudan, Bobcat also appointed Khartoum-based Albadri Power as the company’s new authorised dealer for the country, again effective from 1 January 2022.
Mohamed Elbadri, CEO of Albadri Power, comments: “The Covid period was definitely a tough time for everyone but we have seen a 90% recovery from that crisis and the gap is narrowing all the time. One benefit we saw from the Covid pandemic was that it gave us a chance to explain to the Sudan government and big institutions how to mechanise jobs and that we should not depend 100% on manpower. We were able to explain that they should find alternative solutions by using compact equipment for increased safety for workers, and to deliver work in less time and to higher quality levels.
“The S450 skid-steer loader is the most popular model in Sudan. It has a long history in the private sector but none in the public sector due to the absence of a Bobcat dealer in the country. Now with Albadri Power Co Ltd appointed as the exclusive Bobcat dealer in Sudan from the beginning of 2022, we are approaching the public sector in a proactive way. It helps that all skid-steer loaders whatever the brand are known as Bobcats in Sudan.
“Sudan is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of resources. The main obstacles right now in Sudan are the political complications between the military and the public – once this is solved, then business will boom. Another of the arguments in favour of Sudan is that it can provide food security for all of the Arab world. So, there are real prospects for the market to expand and at Albadri Power Co, our plan is to be ready to meet increased demand with a plentiful stock of Bobcat products and an excellent aftersales support set-up.”
Great potential in African markets
Nicolas Dumont at Bobcat adds: “As a whole the compact industry in Africa has not yet returned to the level of 2019. At the end of 2021, the industry was still 12% under the pre-Covid demand. But if we consider the trend at country level, the reality is extremely different. For example, market conditions have been very difficult in Algeria owing to a range of factors. But when Algeria is excluded, the data shows that the industry in Africa has returned to its pre-Covid level and that it continues to grow by 6% for the period Jan-Apr vs the same period last year.
“The most significant growth is in the Mini-Excavator segment which exceeded pre-Covid levels and is showing a YTD growth of 32%. This is a sign of the start of a mindset change towards this product by companies that used to prefer the backhoe loader.
“Today the major construction projects are usually located around major cities and the current compact industry is mostly concentrated in those areas. But in decades to come the remote cities and villages inside the country will also have their time. And everything has to be done there from water piping to houses to establishing fibre optic and wastewater drainage systems to name a few. That means our dealers will also have to open new branches across the country to be able to provide service to these new locations. Today in most countries, our dealers have one main location in the capital city so they will also have to grow together with the industry. This capacity to grow is an important criterion in our dealer scouting process as we aim at growing together.”